Abstract:Europe, especially the EU, now faces a choice. After the EU lost Russia with devastating damage to the EU economy, the choice must now be made between continuing to follow the US or working with China.

After losing Russia, Europe cannot afford to lose China

by Jiang Jiang and Ren Ke

original article on GRR

I nearly missed covering President Xi Jinping’s visit to Europe this time due to my hectic schedule. Thankfully, my friend Fred Gao provided a complete translation of the four joint statements that were recently issued by China and France. Full translations can sometimes be hard to come by online, so kudos to Fred Gao.

Today, I’ve translated some key insights from an article titled “Europe Reflects: After Losing Russia, It Cannot Afford to Lose China” by Dr. Wang Wen, Executive Dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. His article was published on guancha.cn on Tuesday. Additionally, I’ve invited Ren Ke, who has experience in European journalism, to share his thoughts on Xi’s Europe visit.

Wang Wen:

On Ukraine crisis

The most interesting scene occurred at the second China France Global Governance Forum, where I frankly expressed several views that are generally considered “politically highly incorrect” in France:

“I am the only scholar here who has visited the battlefield of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. After more than 70 days and 21 Russian cities, having conducted six field researches, I must tell the truth to our French friends. Western countries should not delude themselves; merely providing Ukraine with some military weapons will not defeat Russia.”

“The most crucial issue now is to stop the war. China has done a lot towards this end. Apart from official mediation, many Chinese businessmen are trading in the eastern regions of Ukraine, fulfilling the daily consumer needs of the Ukrainian people. China has not provided weapons to Russia like the U.S. has to Ukraine. About 70 percents of the world’s drones are made in China, but China’s export controls on drones to Russia are very strict.”

“China’s dealings with Russia are merely commercial trade. If it were really providing military support to Russia, the situation on the battlefield might be very different. From this perspective, China truly is the only one promoting peace and facilitating dialogue.”

On Europe’s economy

“Europe is more eager than ever for economic recovery, which is why the increasing return of Chinese tourists to Paris, Berlin, and Rome is a significant reason for excitement in the European cultural and tourism sectors. The fact that EU member states’ economic growth in 2024 will not exceed 1.5 percent is making more Europeans realize that returning to economic growth and improving public welfare is currently Europe’s urgent task.”

“In the first week of May, I attended over ten events in France, Germany, and Belgium. I was relieved to hear almost no European mention ‘decoupling from China,’ and the alternative term ‘de-risking’ was also rarely mentioned. What France and Germany frequently discuss is China’s ‘overcapacity.'”

“China does not like this term; it does not align with the facts and is not conducive to future Sino-European cooperation.”

On European elections & U.S. Presidential elections 2024

“More and more Europeans are becoming aware that after losing Russia, they cannot afford to lose China too. These reflections are prompting Europe to ‘turn right’ faster. In the 2024 European Parliament elections, far-right populist parties are becoming increasingly prominent. In the Netherlands, Sweden, and Italy, figures or parties typically seen as representatives of far-right populism have come to power or are participating in governance. In countries like France, Germany, Finland, Portugal, and Denmark, support for far-right populist parties continues to rise.”

“Most Chinese people do not understand what it means for Europe to turn left or right, nor do they wish to interfere in European political elections. However, the desire of European right-wingers to return to their own development and promote economic growth is indeed commendable.”

“What makes most Europeans uneasy is that if Trump returns to the White House in 2024, it will be a significant shock. On the other hand, it also means that Europe will continue on the path of strategic autonomy and signifies the failure of the Biden administration’s attempts to align Europe against China.”

“At the OECD headquarters in Paris and the Adenauer Foundation in Germany, I posed a question: Do you really believe in the so-called ‘peak China theory’ that China’s economy will not surpass that of the United States in the future? Do European investors really want to leave China? The answers I received were all negative.”

“This further convinces me that more frequent interpersonal exchanges will allow Europeans, including those in France, to move away from American thinking and return to a path of pragmatism. This is why I am cautiously optimistic about the future of Sino-European interactions.”

On “the West” narrative in China & more on the Ukraine crisis

“In Chinese media, ‘Europe and the United States’ are often collectively referred to as ‘the West.’ If ‘the West’ is merely a term for criticism and an external force, then of course the term is valid; but if it is seen as a directive for policy, then the concept of ‘the West’ is actually hollow. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a ‘Western policy towards China.’ However, if we do not differentiate between Europe and the United States, it is easy to inadvertently merge the two, creating a unified ‘Western policy towards China.'”

“In light of this, Chinese research on Europe and its countermeasures should emphasize change and guide policies towards Europe in response to immediate changes.”

“For example, during this field research, I discovered that France’s expectations for the outcome of the conflict in Ukraine have shifted from ‘Russia must lose’ to ‘Ukraine cannot lose.’

In the past, many French people believed that with NATO’s full support and thousands of sanctions, Russia’s defeat was certain. Unexpectedly, Russia has withstood more than ten rounds of sanctions and defended against several Ukrainian counterattacks since September 2022. Currently, U.S. and NATO support is more rhetorical than substantial, and since October 2023, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has shifted the focus of U.S. support. Despite French President Macron’s claim to deploy ground troops, the general belief in France is that defeating Russia on the battlefield is now a distant hope, and the current goal is simply ‘Ukraine cannot lose.’

However, this goal is not something that can be openly discussed; France continues to outwardly maintain full support for Ukraine, but these postures are merely to ensure that Ukraine does not suffer too harshly. From this perspective, China’s room to promote peace and facilitate dialogue has grown.”

“Moreover, France’s complaints, criticisms, and even hatred towards China regarding its domestic business environment, human rights developments, and so-called ‘support for Russia’ are gradually transforming into demands for China to promote third-party cooperation and expectations for China’s positive contributions.”

Jiang Jiang, founder of Ginger River Review https://www.gingerriver.com/about

Ren Ke, the former deputy editor-in-chief of Xinhua’s Europe Regional Bureau in Brussels, shared his views on President Xi’s Europe vist:

The France-China-EU triparty meeting is one of the highlights of Xi Jinping’s Europe trip and reflected some features of China-EU relations.

It reminds me of the meeting in March 2019 during Xi’s last state visit to France. At that time, Macron invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to hold a four-party meeting with Xi and presented him the EU’s China strategic outlook, which defined China as a partner, competitor and systemic rival at the same time.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was invited by Macron this time, but Scholz declined it. Macron wanted to show that the EU talks to China with one voice, however, France and Germany are not the same in their economic policies toward China. During the meeting, Macron and Ursula von der Leyen raised the “over-capacity” of China’s green products and the “fair competition” between European and Chinese companies, dovetailing with Washington’s approach.

It was France that suggested initiating an anti-subsidy investigation against China’s electric vehicles, while Germany is quite hesitant to do so because it fears China’s retaliations against its cars sold in China. The France-China-EU meeting was tougher than the China-Germany meeting in April. Scholz’s China trip last month was dominated by topics of investment, cooperation, businesses, etc..

Due to the differences among member states and the EU’s comprehensive decision-making process, China feels easier to deal with member states directly rather than the EU, especially in bilateral issues. However, China has reiterated many times that it DOES want a united Europe when it comes to global issues – only a strong and united European Union can better play a role in safeguarding a multipolar international order, in addressing international and regional issues and issues like climate change and others.

Macron said recently that the international situation needs Euro-Chinese dialogue more than ever. It’s true, and Europe needs China more than ever, because China can play a positive role in mediating an end to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and China is, to some extent, leading in some future technologies and industries.

Another reason, perhaps the most urgent one, is that both the EU and China should prepare for a possible return of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president. In that case, the European strategic autonomy that Macron always calls for will become more important and meaningful.

Ren Ke, former deputy editor-in-chief of Xinhua’s Europe Regional Bureau in Brussels